Overcoming the Oncology Workforce Shortage

In March 2007, results of a study commissioned by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Board of Directors on supply and demand for oncology services through 2020 were released. The study indicated that that the United States is likely to face a nearly 50% increase in demand for oncology services by 2020, largely because of the expected increases in both cancer survivorship and cancer incidence caused by the aging population. The anticipated increase in the supply of oncologists during that timeframe will not meet the growing demand. Results from the 2007 ASCO study were likely conservative with regard to predictions. As the general population gets older, it’s likely to seek more healthcare services than those who are currently 65 or older. Furthermore, improvements in cancer treatments are enabling patients to live longer. In turn, these individuals may eventually be faced with other cancer diagnoses and/or chronic illnesses later in life. Oncology workforce shortages can affect the entire medical community. Unless actions are taken, it’s likely that we’ll face a crisis in our ability to provide quality cancer care for patients. New Initiatives In the November 2008 Journal of Oncology Practice,ASCO’s Workforce Advisory Group issued a strategic plan to address projections indicating that demand for oncology services will surpass the supply of practicing oncologists in the years to come. While no single action will fulfill the supply and demand gap completely, efforts are being made to develop multifaceted approaches that address oncology workforce shortages so that future demands can be met. “Unless actions are taken, it’s likely that we’ll face a crisis in our ability to provide quality cancer...